Tag Archives: children’s book

Kids Interacting with Books

8 Apr

Stephen Sondheim once wrote, in Gypsy, you got to have a gimmick and that seems to be the popular theme of today’s picture books for children.  It’s no longer enough to have beautiful pictures or glorious words.  The book has to be able to DO something and the child has to be engaged in the manipulation of the book or the story so that they’ll get to the end and start reading it again.

This is not a new phenomenon, but it has certainly picked up speed since the introduction of books by the French artist, Herve Tullet.  Tullet’s books, which actively engage the child in pushing, shaking, tilting, and turning the book, were quickly imitated and a whole new genre seems to have been born.

Naturally, these books depend more on illustrations that on words (with one notable exception), and call on the nascent humor of the child and the adult reading the book to improvise a relationship with what the author or illustrator has produced.

These are sure-fire kid-pleasers and, if your child doesn’t already have titles in this list in their personal library, you might want to go out and get them.  Also, these are terrific presents for other children in your life.

I like to say that these are interactive books that require no batteries and absolutely no screen time; just the amazing imagination of a child:

Press Here, by Herve Tullet.


The minute the child opens this book, he is engaged in activities.  The book directs the reader to press on dots, by number or color, to make them multiply.  Shaking the book makes all of the dots slide to one side or the other of the page.  Inverting the book makes the dots fall to the top or bottom of the page.  The book is on heavy stock and will take quite a bit of handling, but if your child loves it as much as most kids do, you might want to stockpile an extra to replace the first when it wears out.  When your child tires (it won’t happen!) of Press Here, you can move on to Mix It Up! which teaches colors and color mixing with the same “fingers on” approach, or Help! We Need a Title! which involves a monstrous assortment of characters in search of an author (et voila!  Tullet!) to produce a book.  Tullet makes a guest appearance as do a couple of referential jokes about his other books.  Great fun!

Go Away, Big Green Monster!, by Ed Emberly.


Emberly, whose color-splashed, wildly drawn illustrations have been around for a while, pre-dates Tullet in reader involvement in his books.  This title is one we use regularly for non-scary monster story times. A black page with yellow eyeballs appearing in two holes starts the book and, with each turn of the page, the child builds, the elements of a monster face.  Giving the child control of the process, it is then time to make the monster go away so each page takes away one of the monstrous features.  At the end, the child has banished the monster and admonished him not to come back again.  At which point most kids scream, “Again,” and the monster building reemerges.

Tap the Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson.


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Matheson sincerely flatters Herve Tullet.  The illustrations, however, are more realistic, picturing a tree in different seasons with leaves and fruit coming and going at the child’s command.  The child can knock on the tree trunk to make apples fall off, or blow away autumn leaves ready to fall.  The clap of a child’s hands bring snow (please stop clapping, kids!) and as winter turns to spring again, birds nest in the tree and the process stars over.

Tap to Play, by Salina Yoon.


If children drank (well, I hope they don’t) we could play a drinking game with each book that involves the word “tap” in the title.  This book, however, also features an adorable, animated dot named Blip, who has big round eyes.  Blip grows and shrinks, changes form and appearance based on the child’s manipulation of the book.  The book is framed as a game that the child and Blip are playing with the final result being Blip taking off, birdlike, and finding a Blippette girlfriend at the end of the book.  Kids will love it.

Duck! Rabbit!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.


This award winning book from several seasons back plays on the optical illusion of a shape that can be either or a duck depending on your perspective.  An off-page voice debates as to whether the long protuberances are a duck’s bills or a rabbit’s long ears.  The duck/rabbit is tempted with carrots or bread to see which he responds to.  Water might be cooling or a place to swim.  The mystery of the ambiguous animal is never quite solved only to be replaced by an equally ambivalent anteater/dinosaur.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, by Adam Lehrhaupt.


Any book that involves monkeys is bound to be funny.  So a book that is full of monkeys, baboons and apes has to be really, really funny.  However, kids have to be careful not to let the monkeys out of the book.  You know what happens when you let monkeys out of a book, right?  They all go a little crazy.  So does the book especially when they come up against an alligator.  But the child has control of the style.  The reader gets to set a monkey trap with, what else, a banana.  Then, under strict instructions from the author, the reader is told to close the book, but only till he or she opens it again and lets the monkey shines begin!

Can You Make a Scary Face?, by Jan Thomas.


Jan Thomas has a whole series of interactive, boldly colored books that will not just engage your child, but reduce both of you to tears.  A very bossy (male) lady bug demands that your child stand up, sit down, eat a bug, blow it out of his mouth, and summon a gigantic frog.  For full effect, your child must do EVERYTHING the book tells him or her to do.  Two suggestions: the second time the bug tells your child to “Stand up,” you might tell them to sit down even though it isn’t written.  Otherwise, your child will be standing for the rest of the book.  Also, this lady bug needs a personality to be really funny.  When I tell it, he sounds like a refugee from a gangster movie.  You can develop your own character to make him both bossy and a scaredy cat.

The Book With No Pictures, by B.J. Novak.


This book has been the absolute hit of the year, written by B.J. Novak, the head writer of the TV show The Office. (He also played Ryan, the temp, Michael Scott’s long-suffering punching bag).  Novak has taken a book and proved that you don’t need pictures to make a picture book.  All you need is a gullible adult who is willing to do what the book says, whether it is to say nonsense words or read gross-out phrases like “Boo Boo Butt.”  That’s as bad as it gets. Honest.  The final page, when the reader has to go through a series of sounds, squeaks, and yodels to please the listener will have the kids in stitches and begging the reader to start again.

These books may not be lyrical or lovely, but they are certainly a lot of fun and they are guaranteed to give your child a new love for reading in all of its inventive forms.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Senior Children’s Librarian

Easing a Child Through Divorce

8 Oct

When parents divorce, it is the children who are often the collateral damage.  No one wants to see their child hurt when parents decide to end a marriage, but it is inevitable because even the most civilized divorces leave children – especially small children – wondering why mom and dad can’t just learn to share as children do.

This is not a guilt trip for anyone going through the pain of a divorce, but there are many books that can help you to do some bibliotherapy, i.e., healing your child through books.  I’ve focused on books for young children, although there are many, many adult books to offer advice of easing your children through the divorce process.  However, the following books are stories to be shared with a child to reassure him or her that many families go through the difficulties that their family is experiencing and that there are coping strategies to help them deal with the changes in their lives.  Most of these books focus on shared custody experiences with parents working extremely hard to make sure that the child experiences the least upheaval, possible.

My Mom’s Wedding, by Eve Bunting.












Seven year old Pinkie has mixed feelings about her mother’s remarriage.  Things get even weirder when Pinkie learns that her father will be a guest at her mother’s wedding.  (Ages 4 to 8)

The Best of Both Nests, by Jane Clarke











When Stanley the Stork’s parents’ divorce his father goes to live in a new nest.  Then he meets Stella whose parents are also divorcing and teaches Stanley that two nests can better than one. (Ages 3+)

Fred Stays With Me, by Nancy Coffelt.












A child describes her parents’ shared custody arrangement that includes her dog going back and forth between her mother’s and her father’s houses.  Fred, the dog, is having a tough time adjusting to his new lifestyle and is causing trouble in each of the homes.  However, his devotion to his young mistress earns him her love and his dog treats. (Ages 5 to 8)

The “D” Word: Divorce, by Julia Cook.











Through well-placed humor and good advice, this book expresses the emotions children feel during the break-up of a marriage, and suggests ways that parents can help them to deal with their feelings.  The book employs the “Three “C’s”: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I have to learn to cope with it. (Ages 6 to 10)

Emily’s Blue Period, by Cathleen Daly.











After her parents’ divorce, Emily finds comfort in learning about art, and expressing herself and her emotions through art projects. (Ages 6 to 8)

I Have Two Homes, by Marian DeSmet.












When her parents separate, Nina sees that she can still spend time with each parent but in their different homes.  (Ages 3 to 5)

Weekends with Dad: What to Expect When Your Parents Divorce, by Melissa Higgins.












This book walks a child through the difficult events surrounding parents’ divorce and explains the emotions that the child may experience in terms that the child can understand. (Ages 4 to 7)

Do You Sing Twinkle?: A Story About Remarriage and New family, by Sandra Levins.










A little boy has a particularly tough time when his parents divorce, and his dad remarries.  The fact that his father now has a new family is particularly troubling to the child, but a caring teacher at school helps him work through his anger.  His parents also come up with constructive solutions to help him feel secure in both of his homes.  (Ages 3 to 7)

Was It the Chocolate Pudding?: A Story for Little Kids About Divorce, by Sandra Levins.










This is a book to teach children, realistically, about divorce, about joint custody agreements, and about how things will change when they are living with a single parent. (Ages 3 to 5)

Just Like Always, by Anne M. Perry.












In this easy reader, children just learning to read independently learn that many things remain the same even after parents divorce.  (Ages 5 to 8)

It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear, by Vicki Lansky.











When Koko Bear’s parents are getting a divorce, he goes through a range of emotions: anger, guilt, confusion, and sadness.  His parents, who always have his best interests at heart, help him to deal with the emotional upheaval he is experiencing.  This book contains tips for parents about helping kids to deal with divorce. (Ages 3 to 7)

Oliver at the Window, by Elizabeth Shreeve.












When Oliver’s parents divorce, he finds comfort in his stuffed lion.  The lion stays right by him as he stands in the window waiting for his mom or his dad to come to pick him up for their custodial time. (Ages 3 to 5)

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend, by Karen Stanton.












Although Henry enjoys his time at his mother’s apartment and his father’s house, his dog, Pomegranate, is having trouble figuring out which place to actually call home.  (Ages 3 to 6)

Living with Mom and Living with Dad, by Melanie Walsh.












With illustrations that resembles a child’s finger paintings, this book shows how the child involved lives very different lives on his mom’s farm and in his dad’s urban home.  However, mom and dad put up a united front by both attending his school play.  (Ages 3+)

The Hoboken Public Library and other libraries in the BCCLS system provide many books to support children in emotional changes in their lives.  Check out the library’s catalogs for other books to help children cope with family change.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Senior Children’s Librarian

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